Shake 'em Up: A Practical Handbook of Polite Drinking. Virginia Elliott, Phil D. Stong.
Shake 'em Up: A Practical Handbook of Polite Drinking

Prohibition-Era Cocktail Book

Shake 'em Up: A Practical Handbook of Polite Drinking

Notes: 80 pages. A cocktail book published during Prohibition with hors d'oeuvres and mixed drinks recipes, mostly dreadful, yet such was the state of entertaining "for the American People in the twelfth year of Volstead, 1930." (The Volstead Act was the law implementing Prohibition). The Volstead Act prohibited offering instructions on how to make alcohol (it was also a crime to tell someone where alcohol could be found) and the few publishers willing to skirt the law and issue cocktail books often tried to pretend the books weren't actually cocktail books.

In this case, Elliott and Stong call for non-alcoholic gin and Scotch in their drinks. On page 68, under the heading Household Hints, they supply a recipe for bathtub gin, or how to flavor pure alcohol to taste something like gin. Real spirits were hard to come by and so most of the recipes are designed to hide the generally poor quality booze with juice and other mixers. A typical party snack is a peanut butter canape, which called for toast, peanut butter, and bacon (p. 18).

As a cocktail book, that is a book with recipes one might actually want to drink, Shake 'em Up is a disaster. But it is arguably one of the most honest accounts of typical American drinking habits during the later years of Prohibition. The gem of Prohibition mixology, The Savoy Cocktail Book from the American Bar in London, came out later the same year. In a widely circulated review of the Savoy, Gerald McClean joked about the lack of American liquor options: "The home wrecker calls for gin, vermouth, Kummel, Charbreaux, and pineapple syrup. Now, we ask you, where in this land of the free is one going to find pineapple syrup?"

Despite the authors' efforts to stay clear of the Volstead Act, the publisher was asked to remove the bathtub gin recipe and all later printings of the book include a statement about censorship rather than the recipe on page 68.

Shake 'em Up is one of the few cocktail books of the time written by a woman. It is also Phil Stong's first book; he is best remembered for his novel State Fair and its four film adaptations and one Rogers and Hammerstein musical.

Edition + Condition: First edition (first printing, with the bathtub gin recipe). This copy would be near fine but for small remnants of the glassine jacket which have adhered in places.

Publication: [New York]: Brewer and Warren, 1930.

Item No: #9307

Price: $300